A while back I sat down with a few folks for a bit of theological speculating. Our speculating became centered around the Apostle Paul. The speculating generated a lot of “what-ifs” concerning Paul. And although we did explore the what-ifs, in this Theology Brewing Letter I have decided to share some of the what-ifs without comment with the hope that they will make you think about the relation of the apostle and his epistles to the disciples and the gospels bearing their names.
What if Paul’s epistles were not in the Bible? How different would Christianity be? Why is it that Paul’s letters even made it into the canon? We say the scriptures are “inspired.” Were the canonical synods inspired in the same way as scriptures? Obviously from the earliest of synods there were disputes about which writings were to be included, and which ones were not.
What if Paul had been one of the Twelve, of of the larger number of Jesus’ disciples, would Paul have said things differently? Would it have affected his Christology?
What if Paul and James never had a dispute? For that matter did Paul and James ever work out their differences? What if Paul had not been so stubborn and gave James the lead in developing the nascent Christology of the Church?
What if Paul’s writing were something more than letters? A commentary, if you will, on the work of Jesus as the Christ? How much of what Paul wrote was political?
What if the gospels were written to dispute Paul given that Paul’s letters were among the first written of those included in the canon? Could at least one of the Gospels have been written to refute Paul?
What if we put the books of the Christian testament in the order that we think they were written rather than the order they’re in, how would that effect our understanding of the work of Jesus as the Christ?
What if, Paul knowing the direction that the Christology of the nascent “Jesus movement” was heading [and assuming he had contact with other disciples (or disciples of the disciples), in addition to James] wrote his epistles to correct what he perceived to a wrong Christology?
What if either of the above were true, where did the disciples get it wrong? Or where did Paul get it wrong?
Well, there you have it. Thank you in advance for sharing your thoughts on the “what-ifs” with us.